The same week UN Secretary-General António Guterres called countries moving to increase fossil fuel production “dangerous radicals,” the federal government has approved Canada’s first deepwater drilling site — Bay du Nord.

On Wednesday, Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault announced he’s determined the project, about 500 kilometres east of St. John’s, “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”

Although there are offshore projects near Newfoundland and Labrador, this would be the deepest and farthest away. Bay du Nord would see drilling take place at a depth of up to 1,200 metres, compared to other current offshore operations, which drill at 100 metres and under.

Those opposed to the project have been ramping up action, calling attention to the 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide the project is set to add to the atmosphere each year. They point to the irony of locking Newfoundland and Labrador into a 30-year-long oil project when experts say the province really needs support for a just transition to clean energy.

The decision is all the more jarring because it was released the same week as the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and shortly after Canada’s new climate plan, says Caroline Brouillette, national policy manager for Climate Action Network Canada.

“UN Secretary-General António Guterres said it most clearly: for us to be approving new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness,” she says.

“Such investments will soon be stranded assets… It’s heartbreaking that our government would double down on fossil production and expansion.”

Norwegian energy giant Equinor and its partner company Husky will operate the Bay du Nord project, which includes numerous exploration and discovery licences, the creation of a floating oil production station and the drilling of up to 40 wells in the Flemish Pass Basin. On March 4, the federal government delayed a decision on the project for 40 days to consider whether it would have "significant adverse environmental effects."

Guilbeault’s environmental decision statement was posted with conditions, including requiring Equinor to develop a “marine mammal and sea turtle monitoring plan” and a requirement that the project would be net zero emissions by 2050.

Those opposed to the project have been ramping up action, calling attention to the 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide the project is set to add to the atmosphere each year. However, groups like @SierraClubACC say the fight isn't over.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Andrew Furey has been vocal about his support for the project, which he sees as necessary for the health of the province’s economy. He’s touted it as a green project, which Brouillette says is impossible.

“This has been promoted as a net-zero project. And obviously, that's only when we exclude Scope 3 emissions. We know that the largest proportion of emissions from fossil production happens downstream when that product is burned,” she said.

“... There's only one atmosphere that knows no borders.”

The Sierra Club is also speaking out against the move and calling on government leaders to oppose the project. Conor Curtis, digital communications co-ordinator with the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, notes Equinor has an opportunity to change gears with this week’s announcement from the N.L. government that the onshore wind farm ban will be lifted, and that the province is working with the feds on offshore wind potential as well.

“Equinor could do the right thing here, they could show they really care about the climate, withdraw from the Bay du Nord project, and instead propose an offshore wind project for Newfoundland and Labrador,” he says.

“We are glad that due to public pressure, N.L.’s government has finally ended a 15-year ban on building wind energy off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador this week. This would be a timely and ethical decision for Equinor to make. Personally, to see youth confront the environment minister on this and then to see their futures endangered by this project is an act of extreme climate hypocrisy.”

The Sierra Club Canada Foundation, which has hosted panels and actions against the project, says the fight isn’t finished, but rather, “momentum is building against Bay du Nord. Nobody is fooled by the greenwashing.”

The group points to a heavily criticized environmental assessment as further proof the project should not move forward. Gretchen Fitzgerald, national program director at the foundation, also points to the recent IPCC report.

“This decision is a cowardly abdication of the need to confront climate change… Bay du Nord also places whales, deep sea corals and other ocean life at risk from spills, noise and vessel traffic,” she says.

“We cannot allow this approval to stand and will be working tirelessly to ensure the project does not proceed.”

Updates and corrections

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This story was updated to include clarification on the windfarm ban in NL.

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Another nail in the Liberals' climate coffin.
Deafening silence from Liberal apologists.
Silence also from Singh's NDP, who sold their role as climate critics for a dental plan.

I'm very disappointed, my bit of hope now quite crushed along with many others I'm sure. The fact that we had our hopes raised with the NDP support that we could at least keep the worst people (cons of course) out of power for a few years doesn't mean that I or ANY of us are "Liberal apologists." That's the thing about progressives; we just want progress in the realm of human flourishing, which has now sharpened to basic survival in the face of climate change. Generally speaking, we're not tribal about politics; we're strategic.
However, your main focus seems to be on being right about how utterly duplicitous the Liberals actually are, and how they only care about "big oil." Your avidity on that front brings trademark Conservative nastiness and oversimplification to mind, an attitude that arises from the view that it's all just another game to win. And now gloating about this very disappointing decision clinches that I'd say. You're not helping.

If Ms Pargeter rejects my criticism of Liberal duplicity on climate, perhaps she would prefer Mr. Guterres' take:

"UN leader slams 'dangerous radicals' increasing oil and gas production"
U.N. Secretary-General Guterres: "It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world."
"Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another."
"Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic."
"But high-emitting governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye; they are adding fuel to the flames."
"Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness."

Or Greta Thunberg's:
“You are failing us but young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”
Thunberg slammed the members of the U.N. for caring more about money and "fairytales of eternal economic growth" than collapsing ecosystems, mass extinctions and people suffering due to climate change.
"You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am I do not want to believe that because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe." (2019)

Ms Pargeter routinely blames conservatives for the Liberals' failure on climate. And she brands climate activists who criticize the Liberals' failure on climate as conservatives:
"Again, your hatred of Trudeau (and Max Fawcett) shines forth here above all else. Time to just admit that you vote conservative I'd say."
"Your avidity on that front brings trademark Conservative nastiness and oversimplification to mind."

Are Mr. Guterres, Ms. Thunberg, Seth Klein, and Rachel Notley card-carrying members of the Conservatives?
Is everybody who opposes Corporate Canada's plan to fail on climate a conservative? Is everybody who criticizes Liberal duplicity on climate a conservative?

Canadians across the spectrum agree that the Liberals' reliance on CCS is a plan to fail. AB NDP leader Rachel Notley calls it a "fantasy".
Progressive Canadians are waking up to the swindle. Online comments on Twitter:
"No matter who we vote for, they work only for the same wealthy donors and lobbyists as the last gov."
"Their climate plan is to extract as much profit as possible for their donors and lobbyists before they are out of office. Their plans are always short term profits. Our system is so corrupt and rigged to the wealthy."

The slander from Trudeau and Notley supporters against climate activists who dare to criticize Dear Leader is absurd.
Obviously, if I reject the Liberals' plan to fail on climate, I also reject the Conservatives' efforts to do likewise.

Do I have to say it out loud? No, climate activists who reject Trudeau's fossil fuel agenda are not conservatives.
Not beholden to any political party, climate activists are rational, non-partisan, patriotic Canadians who accept the science on climate and judge climate policy on its merits.

It is past time for climate activists and Canadians who care about their grandchildren to stop pretending that the Trudeau Liberals are on their side.

Yep. Looks like the best course of action next election would be to stay home and consider every fallen climate policy fodder for critical essays.

Having said that, last time I stayed home with thousands of other pissed off social democrats was after a short term of the BC NDP's Glen Clark. The result? A decade of Gordon Campbell's retreaded neocons whose only good policies were a carbon tax and building another rapid transit line.

Moving to Denmark may be our best hope.

The Liberal party has never been interested in reducing greenhouse gases. Had they been, we'd have had more to show than further increases between 2015 and 2022.
I wonder whether Mr. Guilbeaut was whipped, or paid off. He certainly knows better than to say, as quoted on CBC, that their "calclations" showed that if by 2050 the extraction itself was carbon neutral, there would be no "net" increase in emissions. Seems to me he's the new "rookie woman" to be thrown under the feminist leader's bus.

I've watched Pounder pound out these pages of text for years. I told him then that most people are not willing to read that kind of wall of words but he keeps on copying and pasting. I just simply ignore him as I'm sure most people do.

Actually, I find much of what Geoffrey writes very helpful. That would apply primarily to the facts and info he's obviously been digitally archiving for years. The areas I find contentious rest mainly with his repetitiveness, zeal for pontification and continual unconstructive criticism of how other people vote without offering any advice on what the realistic alternatives are.

And in case you missed my earlier comment, your insistence that the outright denialism of conservatives on climate change itself isn't as bad as the more insidious denialism of the Liberals makes you more the apologist, but for the cons.

Seth Klein: "The bad news is we face a new form of climate denialism — more nuanced and insidious, but just as dangerous.
"In the new form of denialism, the fossil fuel industry and our political leaders assure us that they understand and accept the scientific warnings about climate change — but they are in denial about what this scientific reality means for policy and/or continue to block progress in less visible ways.
"…Claiming that we can take effective action on climate change and ramp-up fossil fuel production at the same time is what CCPA senior economist Marc Lee refers to as 'all the above' policy-making.
"It’s what former Prime Minister Harper was doing when he claimed Canada could be a climate leader while at the same time increasing fossil fuel production, so long as industry reduced emissions per unit of oil, gas or coal produced (i.e. reducing so-called 'emissions intensity').
"It’s what Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Notley are doing when they say we will have carbon pricing and various regulations, while at the same time supporting expanded oil sands production and new bitumen pipelines."
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, 2016)

On energy/climate, nominally progressive parties and party leaders are out-conservativing the conservatives. If anyone is acting like a conservative, it's Trudeau and Notley.

Naomi Klein (06-Feb-18): "Alberta has a left-wing political party in power, one that has somehow convinced itself it can beat the right by being a better suck up to Big Oil."

How can anyone pretend to be surprised or disappointed by the Liberals' most recent climate failure — approving Bay du Nord?
Trudeau (2016): "There is growth to be had in the oilsands. They will be developing more fossil fuels while there's a market for it, while we transition off fossil fuels."
Trudeau (2017): "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."

I believe Trudeau is sincere. Why don't Liberal supporters believe him?

Note that Seth Klein et al are solid NDPers. Makes one wonder how they feel about that today, just two weeks after the NDP added a couple of extra floorboards under Trudeau's shaky legs?

So, Geoffrey, mind revealing who you support? And what kind of chance they have of winning power and affecting positive change?

My advice has not changed since the last time I responded to your question.

Voting for the Liberals forever to keep the evil Conservatives at bay guarantees climate failure. It's like hitting your heading against the wall to make your headache go away.

Progressive voters need to assert control over Canada's nominally progressive parties (Liberals and NDP). The only way to do that is to give them a time out when they stray too far from the progressive agenda. Vote your values. Either vote for some other party, or tear up your ballot, or stay home. Make it known to your nominally progressive party that if they want your vote, they will have to earn it. Ask your neighbours to do likewise. I know of no other way to effect change.

Why would the Liberals change if voters do not give them reason to change? If the Liberals can count on the progressive vote, they will take continue to take progressive voters for granted.

If political parties will not reform voluntarily or spontaneously, voters must take charge and reform them. The only leverage voters have over political parties is their vote (and donations of time and money).

If you reward the Liberals for failure, that only ensures continuing failure. If political parties are to change, voters need to change. The onus is on voters to do something different.

As for me, I cannot in good conscience vote for climate failure — either the Conservative or Liberal version.

The problem with a timeout is math. In BC a progressive voter initiated time out resulted in a decade of neoconservative rule. Federally, the timeout -- which was catalyzed by Jack Layton -- resulted in a federal government of Alberta for a Dark Decade where everything environmental, scientific or social was chopped and wrenched asunder.

In ridings where Libs, Cons and NDPers are all competitive, that represents a genuine quandary to thinking voters in each election. As for voters writing or calling up progressive MPs or MLAs to tell them to buck up or you'll split the scene, have you ever attended a political policy convention? Progressives are notorious for tearing themselves apart, and the politicos don't give a damn about what their own idealistic delegates recommend, let alone take advice from individuals among their constituents.

Yes, it sucks and makes some of us very, very cynical.

I find solace for that in the apolitical and very advantageous renewable energy economics and tech advances that will offer up serious challenges to fossil fuels, especially expensive production, in spite of political decisions.

In that regard, we may be witnessing first hand the early stages of demand destruction before the project is even built and the creation of a stranded asset in Bay du Nord. This is quite ironic in that Newfoundland has some of the best wind power potential on the continent and undersea transmission cables are planned to New Brunswick.

"Silence also from Singh's NDP, who sold their role as climate critics for a dental plan."

You forgot childcare and pharmacare. Pharmacare saves lives. Childcare is great for working parents and the economy. Quebec's system pays back orders of magnitude more than it costs through thousands of parents heading back to work (with the attendant tax and economic multipliers) earlier than they would have without the program.

Yeah yeah, these aren't directly climate related, but they are still very important.

hope is in the moves the Norwegian company can make, They could pivot to building a wind farm, though migration patterns could be impacted, assessments needed.
As well, there have been significant supreme court wins against deep sea drilling recently in South Africa and I believe Argentina? there is hope in the next stage of the fight . exhausting, unnecessary, but possibly with positive outcome. the tide HAS turned on fossil. this is going to hurt Canada more and more till we get out of the texan fossil death grip.

well so much for hypocrisy. This is absolutely the wrong thing to do for climate change. It is pure politics and votes, Shameful we cannot trust anyone in Government any more. Where is the NDP on this. SILENT

Would a real Green Party please stand up?

I perceive a distinctly rank and rotten quid pro quo. Just days ago the Fisheries minister shut down the Atlantic bait fish industry because the stocks have plummeted to extinction level. The action once again devastates the fishing out ports, the fish processing plants and the entire culture of skilled fishing in Atlantic Canada. The announcement may have raised a stink in the Maritimes but scarcely raised a ripple in the rest of the nation.

Now we have the stealthy weekend announcement of approval for the Baie Du Nord offshore oil drilling project in defiance of Canada's own duplicitous climate strategy and international pleas from august climate activist bodies to cease the production of additional fossil fuel resources.

I can already see the glazed gleam of greed in the eyes of the Liberal party caucus. Killing two birds with one stone. Diverting despair on the Atlantic coast into hope for renewed oil and gas prosperity. Sacrificing oceanic health for the black gold.

One wonders will they have to build a new cracking plant in Nfld/Labrador to wring maximum profits from the new field and will the Baie be further despoiled by super tankers? Will they have to build a new pipeline to transport crude and refined products to the voracious east coast markets? Good luck with that!

Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault's deer-in-the-headlights expression of wonderment is most likely his expression at COP26 in Scotland. You would have thought Canada would have sent our very best scientists and reported to the Federal Government.